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Saturday, March 6, 2010

LIST: Top Ten Villains

Villains fascinate me. They're the dark side of the conflict that we're supposed to hope loses at the end of the story. But that doesn't mean that they have be any less enjoyable than the heroes. In fact, they can be just as interesting, entertaining and/or cool as the hero. Hell, that applies to most good villains. But they also have the edge of darkness that we're not supposed to like and that makes them all the more enticing as characters.

In this post I am going to celebrate villains everywhere by listing my top ten villains in all of fiction. To make this list the villain has to be, like I said above, interesting, entertaining and/or cool. But not just that. They also have freaking villains that do villainous stuff. So all those dark anti-heroes can just take a hike. And of course, this list is based on my personal preferences. So nobody bite my head off.

Let's get started.


10. The Daleks from Doctor Who
Who are they?: An alien race of mutated creatures incased in a distinct, mechanical armour. The Daleks are hellbent on conquering the universe and killing all non-Dalek life. When created they had all pity, remorse and compassion removed. Certain descriptions say that the only emotion that remains within the Daleks is hate. Unrelenting and extremely powerful, they are the foremost enemy of the renegade timelord know as the Doctor. Their plans have been foiled many times but often at great costs. They always survive, adapt and build new world-threatening technology. No matter what they will not rest until all life has been exterminated.
Why they're #10: An entire race of what is basically highly advanced miniture tanks controlled by creatures that only know hate. That's both a terrifying thought as well as a brilliant idea for a group of bad guys. The Daleks are so iconic that small children are more likely to recognise them before learning proper geography.
When the Daleks shows up the scale of any conflict immediately goes up and you know that shit is going to go down. They may not be elegant (they've admitted that they don't even have a concept of elegance) and they're about as subtle as a rockslide. But that's how they work. Almost every thing that they do is either an act of war against the rest of the universe. This bluntness is accompanied by a level of power that would've allowed to destroy earth long ago if it wasn't for the Doctor.
Besides that, the engineering that makes them only feel hate makes way for some very interesting instances when a Dalek or two is suddenly exposed to other, more human, emotions. It doesn't necessarily make you pity them or anything like that. But it does reveal some hidden depths to these otherwise inhuman monsters. That little bit of depth along with their iconic stature and the level of scale they bring to any story is what gives them the number ten spot.
Villainous Highlight: Waging a war against the timelords that eventually forced the Doctor to compeltely destroy both races. Sure that was only indirectly the Daleks' fault. But it was still a reaction something they did and it scarred the Doctor for a long time to come.
9. Light Yagami from Death Note
Who is he?: Light Yagami was a prodigious high school student that was bored and disgusted with the state the world was. If he continued a normal life he would probably have ended up becoming a criminal investigator to put criminals to justice. Unfortunately that's not what happened. One day Light found a notebook called a death note. He soon discovered that it gave him the power to control peoples deaths simply by writing their name and the circumstances of the death in the notebook. At first Light started targeting criminals all over the world, acting as a invisible judge, jury and executioner. But when the authorities began searching for the source of these deaths Light begins to kill those that he sees as a threat to him as well. The longer the hunt goes the darker Light's personality becomes. What was once a questionable but well-intentioned quest for justice has turned into a plot to rule the world with a lethal brand of justice, and Light will not let anything or anyone stand in his way.
Why he's #9: As far as villainous protagonists go Light has been a favorite of mine ever since I first started reading the Death Note manga. He's a great example of the corrupting influence that power can have on people. The possible path he might've taken isn't just me guessing stuff. The author of the manga has stated that that is the future Light would've had without the death note. With the death note in his possession however Light steadily grows into a self-righteous murder with delusions of grandeur, going so far as calling himself a god. It's a fascinating process to follow.
Then there's the way he engages those that try to stop him. Instead of sluggin it out with them, Light will use his intelligence to outwit them and the death note to spread fear amongst their ranks. At the time of reading the manga I found it very refreshing approach, and still do to this day. Few villains can out-think their opponents the way Light does.
There are certain fans that would argue that Light isn't really all that evil and that he's trying to do a good thing in an extreme way. That may be true, at first. But they obviously seem to have missed that he not only kills good people simply because they're in his way, he takes great pleasure in conquering and eliminating his enemies. In some instances he even reveals himself to his victims just as they are dying so that they will know exactly who it is that killed them. Also, the whole situation is nothing but a game to him that he intends to win so that he can impose his personal justice on the entire world. To me that just screams villain and lands him the number 9 spot.
Villainous Highlight: At around the half-way point of the series, after a series of mind-boggling stunts that has concealed his identity, Light actually manages to kill not only one but a grand total of three of the greatest threats to his crusade. The most important one being L, a young detective that has been Light's equal and has long suspected that Light might be the culprit. With some impressive manipulation Light manages to get L killed without knowing his real name and while there are several people in the same room as the two. As L dies Light pretends to be distraught while secretly smirking down on his fallen opponent.


8. Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender
Who is she?: The daughterof the tyrant ruler of the Fire Nation. Azula was a cruel person even as a child. Pushing down those that were better than her, scaring her older brother and showing little remorse when her cousin had died and her mother disappeared under mysterious circumstances. As a young adult she's only gotten worse and now takes great pleasure in helping the war effort to conquer the rest of the world. She's a brilliant manipulator, skilled tactitian and one of the best fighters in the world. Always striving for nothing less than perfection Azula will strike down her opponents in every concieveable way before they really know how outmatched they are.
Why she's #8: Azula's the whole package. She can kick your ass, torment you with words, out think your every move or do all three at the same time. All the while she will just smirk at you as if you were just barely worth the effort.
But while that's nice and all the thing that I think makes Azula stand out the most is that she doesn't do a lot of the often silly misstakes that other villains do. Her vengeful brother challenges her to a duel in the middle of a hostile takeover. Instead of accepting and delaying herself Azula has her elite henchmen surprise him and take him out. When everybody is convinced that the main protagonist is dead Azula correctly figures that he's actually alive and plans for his inevitable return. And she does it all with this incredibly cool and professional aura that makes you pay attention to her as you subconsciously straighten your back.
Azula wasn't the main antagonist of the show. That was her father. But he never really became more than a fairly generic tyrant ruler in the eyes of the fans, despite the always awesome Mark Hamill voicing him. Azula on the other hand was her own character and villain. In a show that had an overall brilliant cast of characters Azula managed to stand out with her impressive brand of villainy.
Villainous Highlight: At the end of the series second season a big battle is taking place under the castle of the earth kingdom. The heroes are outnumbered and in need of a saving card. So the main hero goes into a medative state to bring out his ultimate power. As he's floating in the air and shining of a divine light his enemies can't to anything but stare in awe. All except Azula that is. Instead of gawking like an idiot she sneaks up behind him and hits him in the back with a lightning bolt, taking him down and winning the day. The heroes do manage to escape but it was clearly Azula's victory.



7. Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds


Who is he?: The main antagonist of the 2009 hit movie. Hans Landa is a Nazi colonel tasked with locating jews throughout France. He is VERY good at his job as he uses he high intelligence to find even the most well hidden jew before ruthlessly ordering their execution. He's also a polyglot, a person who is fluent in multiple languages, which gives him a sharp advantage that he uses to its full potential. While he is a nazi officer, he doesn't really believe in their ideology and is doing what suits him best at the time. Once something better comes along Hans will rather quickly jump ship at his own convience, and he did. But during his time with the nazis Hans Landa was a frightening force to be reckoned with, even if you were just going to talk to him.
Why he's #7: I've got to admit that the first time I saw this movie this dude scared the shit out of me. Actually that's not really a good description. What he did was that he made any scene that he was in about ten times more intense. The opening of the movie made it very clear that this guy could sniff out anybody that was trying to hide within seconds if he actually tried. In a movie where the good guys are all pretty much pretending to be somebody else that's a very threatening skill that just evoked a sort of primal "Crap, its HIM!" sense within me the first time I saw the movie. Few villains do that, especially while being so insidiously calm.
Then there's the little fact that pretty much wins in the end. Sure he gets marked on the forehead, but there's surgery for that. Besides that he'll get out of WW2 without being persecuted for his crimes and with a nice little house somewhere in America, I forget where. All that despite the horrible crimes that he committed. In my book that's a pretty freaking big win for such a monster as Hans Landa.
Villainous Highlight: Already mentioned it, but that he manages to get out of the war like that tops everything else. And he did it all simply because he found a napkin in a destroyed tavern. From that he put several things together, cut off all the loose ends and if he had been in a different mood the whole movie could've ended rather differently.



6. Hannibal Lecter from Red Dragon/Silence of the Lambs/Hannibal

Who is he?: A serial killer with canibalistic tendencies. Hannibal Lecter was for a long time a respected psychiatrist and member of the upper class that would kill people he found annoying and, often, serve them as dinner to his friends. He was eventually caught but scarred the FBI agent that figured out was Lecter was doing rather severely, mentally and physically. Regardless of whether he's behind bars or on the run from the law Hannibal makes sure to enjoy the finer details of life. If that includes frying and eating another man's flesh then so be it.
Why he's #6: I think that Hannibal was the first fictional character that I metaphorically encountered that combined a monstrous way of life with a sophisticated personality and high intelligence. At the time he was like no other villain I had read about or seen on film. It was fascinating. I could very easily realise that he was one scary s.o.b. and that I would never like to meet him. But at the same time the way he acted was so well-mannered and almost charming that I couldn't help but enjoy the character.
Like many great villains he's the kind that doesn't see himself as evil and more or less believes that his actions are fully justified. Since the novels featuring the character lets us take a fairly deep look into his mind. It was a scary and dark yet interesting ride that few other villains can offer up while still maintaing the level of fame that Hannibal has.
To round out the package there's the fact that although he prefers to focus on taking out his opponents mentally and making them weep themselves to sleep at night, or swallowing their own tongue, he's a very physically strong man with a good knowledge of anatomy. You don't want to get into a fight with him. Trust me.
A monster, but a sophistcated one. Hannibal will keep enticing people for a long time.
Villainous Highlight: Brought out of maximum security and put in a cell that is much more vulnerable Hannibal makes a vicious escape that includes beating two guards to death, cutting off the face from one of them to use as a mask and the using that body as a decoy by switching out their clothes. It's a scene that masterfully displays Hannibal's skills and monstrous callousness with human life.



5. Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty

Who is she?: An evil witch/fairie with powerful magic abilities who calls herself the mistress of all evil. She acts as the main antagonist in the 1959 Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. While some may role their eyes at the idea of a villain from Disney they probably haven't experienced Maleficent. She's extremely sinister, vengeful and will go as far as to summon the power of hell to destroy her enemies. She's not goofy (doesn't even sing) and has a dark sense of humor. When the Disney villains team up in various crossovers she will often act as the leader cementing her place as one of the most powerful and sinister of Disney's villains.
Why she's #5: First of all, she's just looks cool. Rather than the haggerd old woman that evil witches are usually portrayed as Maleficent is sleek and elegant. Her clothes are black and dark purple to contrast against her green skin. And to top it off she has a pair of large devil horns on her dress and manages to pull the look off. In short, I love her design.
Then there's the way she presents herself. She can act courteously and speak with a fairly pleasant tone that still has that tiny level of darkness to it, barely even raising it to when surrounded by spear-weilding guards. But when you piss her off, she gets scary and will blast you to smithereens, she still acts fairly composed during those segments though.
So she's sophisticated, at least she can act like she is. But unlike the two previous villains on this list Maleficent also weilds potent magical power that allows her to control the weather, cast terrible curses and turn into a gigantic freaking dragon at will. Pretty badass if you ask me.
She's really the star of the movie what with the prince and princess being terrinly boring and bland and the good fairies aren't even half as entertaining as Maleficent. She's a lady of darkness that truly has it all.
Villainous Highlight: In a scene after she's captured the dashing prince Maleficent goes down into the dungeon to taunt him. She does this by showing him images of how he will rescue the girl of his dreams from her eternal slumber... after Maleficent has kept him locked up for 100 years so that he's an old man while Aurora, the sleeping beauty, will still be young and probably want a husband that won't die within the next few minutes. What really makes the scene great is Maleficent's taunting. She speaks as though she narrating a classical fairy tale of love and that's just freaking cruel.

4. Ulquiorra Cifer from Bleach

Who is he?: A spirit being with aspects of both the humanish shinigami and the ferocious hollow. Ulquiorra is the fourth strongest member of the Sosuke Aizen's primary fighting force, the espada. He is fiercely loyal to his master, or maybe not, and meets almost everything with a borderline infuriating level of calm and stoicness. Throughout the series Ulquiorra develops an interest in humanity and what it is that makes the heroes, particularly Kurosaki Ichigo and Inoue Orihime, struggle when they should know that it is hopeless. He is only the fourth espada and he can still decimate entire cities. What chance does mere humans have against him?
Why he's #4: Ulquiorra is... different. Mainly in motivation. He's not driven to do the things that he does out of hate, spite or a need to dominate the world. With him it's more about curiosity. He feels as though he doesn't understand human, which must be rather infuriating as he is in fact very intelligent and highly perceptive. So he pushes the heroes' buttons, at least Ichigo's and Orihime's, in order to test them. He wants to figure out what it is that makes them tick and do what they do. To do this he does rather cruel things like kidnapp Orihime and then stoically torments her about how her friends are dying while trying to save her. Oh and he more or less kills Ichigo... twice. He got better. All to understand them.
At least, that's the way I interpret the character. You see, he's a very secretive person. We don't get much insight into the way he thinks until his death scene and even then it's not that much to go by. Instead we have to read his subtle actions. A glance of his eye, a subtle shift in his face. He's a very difficult person to read. We can even question Ulquiorra's loyalty to Aizen as he later on reveals a hidden power that might've made him the first espada instead of the fourth.
In short, Ulquiorra is a mystery and it works. He basically embodies the idea that less is more. That, along with his hideous power and unwavering stoicness, make his position on this list the same as his position in the espada ranks, something that I did not plan.



Villainous Highlight: When faced with Kurosaki Ichigo in battle for the first time Ulquiorra allows himself to get struck down by an attack that's empowered by Ichigo's rage over the fact that Ulquiorra has kidnapped Orihime. The attack is the most powerful one Ichigo has pulled off at that point and covers an entire room and it only messes up Ulquiorra's clothes somewhat. Ulquiorra then proceeds to beat the shit out of Ichigo. Even then the hero boldly tries to fight, believeing that Ulquiorra is the most powerful espada, reasoning that if Ulquiorra is defeated then the war might as well be over. It is at this point that Ulquiorra calmly reveals that he is actually the fourth. With Ichigo stunned by this fact Ulquiorra proceeds to stab him through the chest and leaves him to die while telling him how pointless it is for him to fight anymore.

3. Doctor Doom from Marvel Comics

Who is he?: Coming from the European country of Latveria, Victor von Doom is the son of a gypsy witch. He would grow into a brilliant scientist and headstrong individual that attracted the attention of the dean of Empire State University. Doom was offered the chance to study in America and readily took it. It was at the university where Doom's face was disfigured in a flawed experiment of his. Doom was warned by his fellow student Reed Richards about the experiment's instability but he did not heed the warning and in fact swore revenge on Reed, claiming that he sabotaged Doom's experiment. After that Doom disappeared for a long time. When he resurfaced he had taken control of his home country and mastered basically every science known to man as well as sorcery. With these resources Doctor Doom is without a doubt one of the most dangerous villains in the entire Marvel Universe.
Why he's #3: There are other villains that I prefer in the Marvel Universe. But there is no
denying it. Doctor Doom is the greatest villain in all of Marvel comics. Not only is he the Batman of villains in that he has mastered an extremely large amount of skills and abilities in a relatively short amount of time. He's also one of the most iconic villains that has been around for 40 years. People just like the guy and he's here to stay.
At first glance Doom could be considered to be a sort of clich├ęd type of villain. More specifically the meglomaniacal world-conquering type. He's more than that. Among other things, he's got a sense of honour that has led to him saving the world or given up a fight. He's even aided in the birth of Reed Richards daughter when nobody else was available, he then named the kid as an insult to Reed.
That revenge stuff is also a big part of what makes Doom the person he is. He is so determined to prove that the accident that disfigured him wasn't his fault that he will go to hell and back, litterally at least once, in order to punish Reed for it. Because Doom believes himself to be above all others, but the mere existence of Reed proves that wrong, and Doom just can't have that. So he tries to defeat Reed and rule the world over and over again, simply to prove his superiority. While he's gotten a few victories in the former he hasn't actually made that much progress. Conquering the world on the other hand. He's done that like twice through advanced mind control. He gave it up at the first sign of a resistence because it was boring without anyone to challenge him. So he has the need of wanting people to witness his greatness rather than just steam-rolling over them. Another layer of complexity
With his determination, complex character and an incredible list of abilities it's no wonder why Doctor Doom is considered such a great villain.
Villainous Highlight: Where to begin. There's the time he defeated a nigh-omnipotent being and stole its powers through sheer force of will. How about the time he kidnapped another villain, amped up his mind-controlling abilities and used them to take over the world? There's also the time he launched his arch-enemies' entire home into space and blew it up. He's also used demonic hell powers to torture the lot of them. Doom has a long list of accomplishments for a comic book supervillain.



2. Medusa from Soul Eater

Who is she?: Medusa is a witch that serves as one of the primary antagonists in the manga/anime Soul Eater. She intends to use a substance know as black blood to seize control over the power entity know as kishin in order to use its power to reshape the world. To do this she will stop at nothing and considers everybody and everything a potential sacrifice to further her own goal. Even if it means that she has to go through her own family.
Why she's #2: That thing I said above about Medusa going through her family. It might seem like I'm implying that the heroes that she fights are her own family members. That's not the case at all. I'm actually refering to the fact that Medusa has at this time stolen her sister's, who's also a major villain, body after her own was weakened and... people with faint hearts may not want to read the next paragraph.
There's a gender-ambiguous child called Crona in Soul Eater. Medusa replaced this child's blood with the black blood and forced the kid to kill small animals so that she could study the child's growing insanity, because kishin is a being of insanity. She generally torments the kid, locks it up alone in a room and because Crona doesn't actually have any desire to become a powerful kishin Medusa often refers to Crona as unneeded and similar things. Crona is finally saved from Medusa, makes friends with the heroes and begins to live with them. But Medusa still has a hold on the kid and turns her into a spy, eventually takes him back and has now made it so that Crona has actually forgotten all her friends. The kicker here is that Crona is Medusa's own offspring. That is to say, her child.
You have to be pretty freaking sick and evil to pull something like that. But Medusa isn't just sick and evil. She's also a brilliant magnificent basterd that has outwitted a majority of the other characters at one point or another. Hell, in the two major confrontations that she takes a part in Medusa manages to accomplish almost all her goals. The only things she doesn't get away with is to kill of the major protagonists and the reason for those are often cricumstancial. Now, not only is a she a great planner and manipulator, Medusa isn't afraid to stand on the frontlines and can duke it out with some of the best fighters in the series.
Cunning, dangerous and downright evil. Those are the reasons why Medusa is as high on the list as she is.
Villainous Highlight: While weakened and possessing only the body of a little girl Medusa manages to play the heroes and her sister's organisation against each other. She even gets the heroes to let her lead a small group of their fighters straight into her sister's castle. At the end of it all it is revealed that Medusa played them all just so that once her sister died she could get control of her body. She does just that and then escapes, right underneeth the heroes' noses.


1. Xykon from Order of the Stick


Who is he?: Once there was a boy born a sorcerer, a person that possess natural magical abilities. Once he became a young man he was approached and offered guidance to control these abilities. Not really feeling for it the boy lashed out and decided to become a villain. Over the years the young man would grow more powerful and cruel towards the world. Never once regretting the evil deeds he was doing. When he was an old man he made a deal with a group of goblins that would make them rulers of the world. But as I said, he was getting old and probably didn't have much longer to go. One of the goblins had a suggestion that would not only get rid of the age problem but also make him more powerful than ever before. It would however come at the cost of the old sorcerer's humanity as he would become an undead being known as a lich. The old sorcerer accepted the offer without thinking twice, he did however joke about it. Now the old man is a lich sorcerer with an army of hobgoblins backing him up on his quest to take over the world. The name that this individual was given by his parents hasn't been revealed. It is long lost, along with his humanity. For the longest time he has been known as the lich sorcerer Xykon.

Why he's #1: There are really two things that make Xykon the greatest villain in my eyes. They can be summed up like with these words. Power and evil.

Xykon is powerful, very powerful. But he isn't very smart. Unlike most of the other villains on this list Xykon prefers to just smash through the wall and blast the holy hell out of everybody that might just happen to be in the vicinity. It's not that he's stupid, because he has shown himself to be a very adept at manipulation and he knows how people work. It's that he's lazy, easily bored and prefers to power his way through life rather than bothering with well-planned strategies. That's where his power comes in. Xykon is a firm believer that there's a level of power that no amount of intelligence or strategic thinking can match up against. So he has oodles upon oodles of power and uses that to crush his foes. More than that, Xykon truly understands what true power is. It's not just the ability to throw around high level magic. He could run out of power and then he be in a big mess unless he had any back-up power. There's more to it than that, but believe me. Xykon understands power.

Then there's the evil. More than any other villain on this list, Xykon is evil. And it's not out of hatered against the world or the need for revenge or because his mommy didn't love him when he was a kid. Xykon is evil because he just likes being evil. I mentioned before that many great villains don't agree that they're evil. Xykon is the opposite of that. He will very freely admit that he is evil. He revels in it and then goes of to do the most horrible things you can imagine. Because not only is Xykon evil, he's pretty much a jerk as well. The things this guy does are simply horrible and people will cheer when he goes down. But also groan a little because such a great villain has been lost to the world.

Villainous Highlight: The end of the graphic novel Start of darkness which depicts Xykon's origin story along with the other villains of the Order of the Stick series. That's all I'm saying because it's a freaking doozy and I don't want to spoil it.

And that's that. Wow, that took way too long for me. Now you might wonder why I didn't include great villains like Darth Vader, Heath Ledger's Joker, Sephiroth, Voldemort and many many others. I did consider all of them, except for Sephiroth (he's really freaking overrated), but at the end of the day this is the list of villains that felt right for me.

Until next time. Peace out.

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